Updated: Mar 29, 2020
For the vast majority of the population, sitting at a desk for 8\9 hours a day is an occupational hazard that we cannot escape from. Back pain is rife among the global population with back pain classed as the most common work-related disability, as well as the most expensive! Despite the fact that (some, not all) corporations do their best to supply ergonomic chairs and equipment, a sedentary lifestyle is still taking its toll on our bodies and backs.
In light of Covid-19 with everyone working from home, I bet most of us are now sitting on poorly designed desk/kitchen chairs and are probably getting up and moving even less! Our commute now involves simply rolling out of bed and we are no longer taking procrastination strolls around the office to chat or to make yet another cup of tea.
With the lifetime prevalence of back pain to be estimated at between 60% – 70% in industrialised countries, it’s time to help ourselves!
Every hour or so, all you need is 5 minutes to do a few simple yoga postures in your chair to help alleviate some aches and pains.
As always, only do what you can and what feels good!
Please bear in mind, I am not a medical professional and you should always seek professional treatment and advice for any injuries or problems you have. These exercises are intended as a guide only.
Here are some seated postures you can do:
1) Seated Tadasana (Mountain Pose)
When we are working, we tend to hunch and round the back, creating a postural imbalance which leads to muscle strain. By sitting in mountain pose, we are stretching and lengthening the back, neck and shoulders, helping to correct our alignment.
Sit on the edge your chair, with your hands on your knees, roll your shoulders up and back, lift up through the crown of the head and lengthen the back.
Remain here for 30 seconds taking deep breaths in and out through the nose.
2) Seated Neck Stretches
Here you could do whatever feels good but personally, when I am sat at a computer, I like to remain in seated tadasana, interlace my fingers, place my hands under my chin and look up as I inhale. This feels like a nice counter posture for the excessive rounding of the neck we do.
Inhale to lift the gaze with the hands under the chin, exhale to hold. Take several deep breaths in and out whilst holding this posture.
3) Seated Cat/Cow
Remaining on the edge of your seat with the hand on the knees, inhale as you lift the gaze, arching the back and drawing the shoulder blades in together (cat). Exhale as you round the back, drawing the belly in and letting chin come down (cow).
Repeat the cycle 3-5 times.
4) Seated Cobra Pose
With the spine now back in a neutral position, wrap the hands around the back of the chair, inhale to lift the gaze and arch the back, drawing the shoulder blades in together.
Hold this posture for a few breaths, allowing the shoulders, chest and back to stretch. Take a final inhale in the posture, exhale to release the hands to come back to neutral.
Repeat as many times as feel good.
5) Seated Roll Down and Forward Fold
Remaining on the edge of your seat with your hands on your knees, take a breath in. As you exhale, tuck the chin to the chest and slowly roll down through the spine until you come to a forward fold with the chest on the legs and the hands on the floor. If you can't come all the way down, don't worry!
Hold the forward fold for a few breaths before inhaling to roll back through the spine, leaving the head until last.
Repeat however many times you like, making sure to pause in the forward fold.
6) Cactus Arms
Once back in a neutral position, inhale to take the arms up overhead, exhale take the arms out, bending at the elbows. Once here, inhale to draw the shoulders blade together, sending the chest forward and lifting the gaze.
Hold this position for a few breaths, take a final inhale and exhale to release the hands back down.
Repeat this cycle at least 3 times.
7) Seated Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
With the feet planted on the floor and with the back lengthened, inhale to lift the arms straight up (shoulders are down), exhale to lean forward so that your shoulders are about half way across your thighs.
Hold in this leaning forward position for a few breaths to strengthen the shoulders and upper back. Inhale to lift the chest back up, exhale to release the hands back down.
Repeat at least 3 times.
8) Seated Goddess Pose
Remaining on the edge of the seat, take the feet wide so that they are wider than hip distance, with the feet slightly turned out.
Inhale to lift the arms up (shoulders down), exhale to lean forward so that your shoulders are about half way across your thighs. Keep the back lengthened and arms up, feeling a stretch through your inner thighs. Inhale to lift the body back, exhale to reset.
Repeat as much as you like.
9) Seated Star Pose
When we sit all day, the constant contraction of our hip flexors causes them to shorten over time. The lower back is then pulled downwards towards the thighs, which results in compression in the lower spine. It is important to lengthen and strengthen the hip flexors to avoid discomfort in the lower back.
Keeping the arms up overhead and the legs wider than hip distance apart, inhale to lift the feet off the floor and extend the legs, keeping the spine lengthened. Exhale to hold before releasing the feet back to the floor.
Hold the legs out for 15 seconds and repeat!
10) Chair Downward Dog
Start by standing behind your chair with the feet hip distance apart.
Inhale to lift the arms up overhead and as you exhale lower the chest down, placing the hands onto the back of the chair. Walk the feet back so that you can fully extend the arms.
You want to create one line from your hands to your hips, so you may need to bend the legs to achieve this.
This is great for stretching the back of the legs, shoulders, chest and back.
You can experiment with bending and straightening the legs to deepen the stretch on the legs or lowering the chest down a bit further to deepen the shoulder stretch.
Hang out down here as long as feels good for you.
To come out of the posture, walk your feet back in towards the chair and as you inhale lift the torso up, releasing the hands from the chair.
To finish, return to seated mountain pose, close the eyes and just take a few deep breaths in and out through the nose, letting the body and mind relax.
Give these a try and see how you feel! Let me know how you get on :)
World Health Organisation Website
Relationship between mechanical factors and incidence of low back pain. Nourbakhsh, Reza and Arab (2002)
Yoga International Website
Yoga Journal Website